Archive for August, 2011

T’s in Town

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Transient killer whales were the big sea creatures in town today!  We filled up the Sea Lion vessel with eager passengers and went out to the Rosario Strait just past Orcas Island in search of ocean life.  In the distance, we could see a splash then a white cloud indicative of whale snot (a blow) and then a black fin.  After another minute, two more whales surfaced and then a female and a little orca.  But wait?  Was that another two orcas 400 yards away from the group of five?  Why, yes it was!  And then, even further, we saw yet another group of four or five transients.  It was a party!  Generally, transient (mammal-eating) killer whales are found in pods of four or five but today it seemed that multiple pods were gathering in larger numbers.  Theories as to why this occurs can include anything from spreading the gene pool to socializing to hunting.  At one point, we did also see a harbor seal pup in the menagerie, perhaps trying to escape becoming a killer whale meal.  We learned later that T036 and T036B were part of the group we saw.

Further along in our travels, we found a lone bald eagle perched on a navigation marker off Lawrence Point on Orcas Island and a handful of plump (and safe) harbor seals hauled out on rocks off both the Orcas and San Juan Islands.

Serena, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris

August Whale Sightings

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Well, we just did the math.  From August 1- 29 we have ran a total of 49 Whale Watches.  Of those 49 trips we successfully located whales 47 times.  And not just Orca, but Minke and Humpback Whales as well!!  That is a 96% success rate at seeing whales on our trips.

On top of whales we have also been seeing Stellar’s Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, Dall’s Porpoise, and Bald Eagles on a regular basis.  One day we even encountered an Elephant Seal.

Every day is different.  We never know what exactly is going to happen.  That is what makes everyday exciting!


Captain Mike

San Juan Safaris


Monday, August 29th, 2011

Today we traveled all the way to Victoria to see one lone transient.  He was magnificent.  It was a long haul but when we arrived he appeared to be patrolling up and down the rocks.  He has one of the broadest dorsal fins I have ever seen.

The word on the street was that he had been harassing a sea lion prior to our arrival.  When we got there he was just cruising, back and forth along the rocks, occasionally rolling slightly on his side as if he was looking up toward the rocks to see what was on the lunch menu.  It was pretty cool.  After a bit of whale watching we began the long journey home.  Thanks to a ripping 5-6knot tidal flood, we made it there in record time.  We stopped for a group of Steller’s Seal Lions hauled out on whale rocks and in the water below.  On the way home the clouds parted and gave way to sun and flat water.  Seals were lounging.  Porpoises were frolicking.  Fantastic.

Laura, San Juan Safaris

Sea Lions off San Juan Island from a 5:30 Sunset Tour

Monday, August 29th, 2011
Attached are two pictures of Sea Lions, taken during my visit to San Juan Island last week. These pictures were taken while on the Whale Watching tour with San Juan Safari, on 8/20 – the Sunset Tour.
Sending these for the photo contest, under “Other Wildlife” category.

Sea Lion off San Juan Island by Ashwin

Sea Lion off San Juan Island by Ashwin

Sea Lion near San Juan Island

Sea Lion near San Juan Island

Killer Whales Everywhere!

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

It was easy, maybe too easy, finding killer whales today. We headed up north from Friday Harbor, and just east of Spieden Island we encountered both K and L pods. They were everywhere around us! Breaching, spy hopping, and tail slapping. After watching them for a while, we headed back south towards Cattle Point. We saw harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and a juvenile bald eagle. Then, as we headed back into the harbor we encountered the killer whales again! And they were still being super active! We saw at least six more breaches. I was also able to identify Mega from L-pod. It really was an amazing day!

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

A little bit of Everything

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Another calm clear day around San Juan Island.  We were able to find most of the Southern Residents heading north past the west side of the island.  As we came on scene we found a nice group of about 10 animals traveling together.  It was difficult to get good IDs but there was one adult male with the group.  We got to enjoy their company for a while as they moved towards Turn Point.  They exhibited a nice range of behaviors including porpoising, spy hopping, tail lobbing, and even a few breaches!  The water was calm and the lighting was just right for our passengers to get some good photos.

On the way home we encountered some bald eagles and harbor porpoise.  Just when we thought the trip was done and we were pulling in the harbor we even saw a harbor seal surface with a HUGE salmon in its mouth.  It chowed down as we watched.  Very cool end to a great day.


Captain – San Juan Safaris

Whales galore

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

After two whole days without orcas around (but with Humpbacks and Minkes!) our residents returned to the sound in full force.

There were lots of animals around on the way up to see the whales: harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and even a bald eagle! As for the whales,  there were groups representing all 3 pods up in the area between Stuart and Pender Islands.  When we came on scene the whales we were with appeared to be resting.

After about 20 minutes they suddenly turned around and sped up.  There were whales everywhere. We were surrounded! As we prepared to leave the area a Humpback appeared, heading north.  We had heard about the animal earlier in the day.  We kept our distance and didn’t stop to watch the single whale, as it was entangled in fishing gear and there were boats around with the hopes of untangling it from the line.

Finally, on our way back we stopped around Speiden Island to view some mouflon sheep that were moving around right on the rocks near the water.

Laura and Kristen, Naturalists, San Juan Safaris

Lummi-ing Humpbacks

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Headed out between Shaw and Lopez Islands, past Orcas and out towards Lummi Island, we were in search of the ever-popular but very elusive (in the Pacific Northwest) humpback whale.  Clocking in at an average 45 feet (school bus size) and 80,000 pounds, they are in the top ten largest animals to ever roam the Earth.  Could we find one?

We saw boats out by Lummi, and continued towards them.  And then, we saw a blow!  And then another.  But wait, there was another set of blows!  We had not one but two humpback whales!  As we continued to view the humpbacks, we noticed that one appeared a little smaller than the other; did we have a mother and almost-yearling calf?  The larger whale would breathe for about 4-5 cycles and then fluke-up dive and then the smaller one would follow suite.  Perhaps two juveniles, teens hanging out.

Inevitably, we had to go and headed to look for some harbor seals.  Before we could get too far, though, we saw lots of small gray bodies porpoising (bringing part of their bodies up) out of the water.  Harbor porpoises!  We did also find our seals, several basking and several taking on the cold waters and swimming.

Serena, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris

Rainy day doesn’t keep the whales away

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

It wasn’t exactly the nicest day on San Juan Island, but having it rain did not prevent us from going out and seeing the wildlife the Salish Sea has to offer. We first saw a bald eagle perched in a dead looking tree. Then, we saw some whales I haven’t seen for over two months…transients! There were four of them, traveling very quickly, their dorsal fins waving in front of us. It was the T-19 group, and I love seeing the transients because they are really the coolest, top predator of the sea! After spending time with them we headed back to Friday Harbor, taking a scenic route around Orcas Island. Through this area we spotted another bald eagle, as well as a blue heron, some harbor seals, and a few harbor porpoises. This rainy day definitely did not keep any of the wild life away.

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Enjoying the wildlife in the Salish Sea

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The reports were that the killer whales were headed far west, out towards the Pacific Ocean. But this gave us a chance to see all the other wildlife the Salish Sea has to offer. So we headed north out of Friday Harbor on our way to Patos Island. On the way we spotted a whole bunch of harbor seals, including pups, hauled out on rocky areas as well as in the water. We then saw a bald eagle, perched overlooking the sea. Plus, this far north we were able to see an amazing view of Mount Baker! There were also a lot of harbor porpoises coming up around the boat both on the way up and back. Finally, right before getting back into the harbor, there was another bald eagle.